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  • Writer's pictureTerry Fisher

How unique is your offering, really?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

When I sit back and reflect on one of the first successful companies that I grew, scaled and ultimately exited I know that the successful outcome was the result of hundreds, if not thousands, of individual elements that all came together. But, one of the most vital parts of growing that brand was the fact that we had a genuinely unique proposition.

And how do I know that what we were doing was unique? Well, we basically invented a whole new sub-sector in our industry and then dominated that space. So when I say we had something unique, I mean really unique!

Let me take you back to the beginning; when I started Travelworld after getting kicked off the leisure and tourism course for being 'under qualified to work in travel' (that itself is a subject for another blog!) I knew that we had to offer something that made us stand out.

The majority of tour operators were simply letting people walk into the shop, getting them to read the standard packaged options in the brochures and booking holidays well in advance - back then it was normal for people to come in on the day that the new brochures landed to book their slot for the following year. I know what you are thinking dear reader - imagine booking stuff a year in advance now, most of us don't know what is happening next week, let alone next year, right!

You have to remember that we are talking about 30 years ago, so the travel industry as we know it now did not exist. That whole sector has gone through a complete evolution and revolution.

But while the high street incumbents were quite happily serving the long-term holiday bookers, we realised that there was an appetite for last minute deals. Holidays at a discounted rate for those who literally, at two weeks notice, decided they want to go on a trip. And nobody was really serving that market. In fact, to start with, the other major players - who would eventually become our competitors - didn't even know this market existed. Actually, worse than that, when I think back, the other travel brands would proactively disregard this sector and send them to us!

I know, in 2021, this level of misunderstanding of a potential market segment seems hard to comprehend but, back then, the likes of Thomas Cook would literally point their potential customers to our front door! In those days, the household name brand tour operators were quite stuffy and they would say "Oh, you want a discount - well we do not do last minute holidays, special offers and that kind of thing, you will have to go and see those dreadful people at Travelworld!"

Spotting the gap in the market was one thing, but then making it our main focus was quite another.

A lot of people think that 'having a unique offering' is about being a bit different, a bit cheaper, a bit easier, a bit faster - but those incremental differences, in a lot of instances, don't actually give you enough of a USP to stand out.

What we created had never been done before; we would call the operators and find out what availability they had coming up in the next few weeks for flights and accommodation and we would create packages from the individual elements of their unsold inventory. For example, we'd find that they had availability to Athens outbound on a Friday, but they had no inbound flights for two weeks back to Manchester... but they did have inbounds to Gatwick. So we'd buy the outbound from Manchester, we'd buy the inbound to Gatwick and we would put a coach on from Gatwick to Manchester.

Sounds simple when you say it now, but back then no one had thought to do it / focus on it.

So, as well as being a unique proposition, we were also a valuable proposition to everyone involved. We were using empty inventory for the travel companies - so they loved us and we were giving travellers a fantastic experience at a discounted rate - so they loved us too.

Win win, I love when those are created in business.

Our ethos was that if someone walked into one of our stores we would find them a trip that they would love - and no one should ever leave our store without a receipt! But to make that happen we had to get creative!

And we did get creative; I remember regularly crafting bespoke trips like a 9 night holiday to the Greek Islands where we would fly holidaymakers into Crete but there would be no return flights from there, so we'd get the return flights from Rhodes. We'd then organise a ferry from one Island to the other after 7 days, organise another great hotel near the airport for the return flights home. So people would be getting a 9 night, two location, hassle-free holiday all at a discounted, last minute price. We used to get a lot of people coming back to our stores the week after they got home, just to say thanks.

Smiles on happy, sun-tanned faces, it was very rewarding I have to say.

So, my question to you goes back to the title of this blog 'How unique is your offering, really?' Having a genuine USP that offers genuine value and creates a genuine demand for your service is a great foundation to build a successful brand and business from.

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